CAPTAIN FIONA ROCHFORD’S last-gasp free salvaged a draw for Wexford in a gripping Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 3 final against Tipperary.
There was high drama at the very end as referee John Niland stepped in when Tipp’s Jennifer Grant took too long over a free, overturning the award and handing the Slaneysiders a chance to level.
Rochford duly obliged with the very last kick of the game and the two sides must battle it out again for the right to play Division 2 football next year.
Rochford’s effort levelled the tie for the fourth time in 13 minutes as Wexford and Tipp slugged it out until full-time in front of a big attendance in Clane.
Tipp lost a Division 3 final replay against Waterford last year and now face another rematch as they aim to make the jump to the second tier.
Tipp, who had won all eight of their previous League games this year, recovered from a disastrous start when Aisling Murphy, scorer of two Wexford goals, netted in the second minute.
It was a good Wexford move involving Ellen O’Brien and Rochford, before Murphy applied a classy finish.
Tipp were hit with another setback when their leading scorer, Aisling McCarthy, was sin-binned in the ninth minute.
But the Premier County coped well in that time, the impressive Aishling Moloney scoring two points before Murphy struck again for Wexford, fisting Catriona Murray’s speculative delivery to the net in the 18th minute.
Wexford were now five points clear, 2-1 to 0-2, but three unanswered points from Tipp before half-time had them in touch at the break, trailing by 0-5 to 2-1.
And Tipp finished the half with 14 players again, when Grant was yellow-carded and would spend ten minutes in the sin-bin.
Tipp signalled their second half intentions from the throw-in when Moloney claimed possession and raced through for a superb score.
Rochford and McCarthy swapped frees before Rochford put over a fine point from play to hand Wexford a 2-3 to 0-7 lead.
That score came less than a minute after McCarthy had the chance to level at the other end but rather than shooting, the Cahir player opted to pass inside and the ball was lost.
Wexford suffered sin-bin woe of their own in the 37th minute when full-back Marica Cullen was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Orla O’Dwyer.
But Tipp struggled to make headway with the numerical advantage, scoring just a single point with Cullen back on the pitch, while Grant’s return had Shane Ronayne’s team back to 15 players.
With 13 minutes left, a McCarthy free finally drew Tipp level at 0-9 to 2-3 and in a tit-for-tat finish, Wexford showed real fight to draw level.
Indeed, Tipp moved ahead on three occasions but each time, Wexford, managed by former county senior football team goalkeeper Anthony Masterson, responded.
Sub Chantelle Martin made a big impact for Wexford down the home stretch, assisting a point for Ellen O’Brien before drilling over a sensational score from the touchline.
With two minutes left, McCarthy’s seventh point, and fifth free, looked to have claimed victory for Tipperary.
But there was still time for another Wexford score, Rochford doing the necessary from a nerve-jangling free when Tipp argued that the ball should have been thrown up when Grant was penalised.
Scorers for Tipperary – A McCarthy 0-7 (5f), A Moloney 0-4 (1f), M Morrissey 0-1.
Scorers for Wexford – A Murphy 2-1, F Rochford 0-3 (2f), E O’Brien & C Martin 0-1 each.
Tipperary – L Fitzpatrick; B Condon, S Condon, E Kelly; M Curley, S Lambert, E Buckley; E Fitzpatrick, J Grant; O O’Dwyer, A McCarthy, G O’Brien; C Condon, A Moloney, M Morrissey.
Subs – N Lonergan for Kelly (38), C Walsh for Fitzpatrick (53), E Myles for O’Dwyer (58).
Wexford – M.R. Kelly; S Harding-Kenny, M Cullen, M Doyle; C Donnelly, R Murphy, G Hearne; B Breen, K Kearney; N Butler, C Murray, E O’Brien; A Murphy, F Rochford, N Mernagh.
Subs – C Martin for Butler (49), S Cloake for O’Brien (57).
Referee – J Niland (Sligo).
Longford’s deadly inside forwards Sarah Tierney and Michelle Farrell collected 2-8 between them as the Midlanders saw off dogged Wicklow to claim the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 4 title.
Tierney scored 1-3 and Farrell 1-5 as Longford, managed by former Armagh boss James Daly, secured promotion back to Division 3, having been relegated to the bottom tier in 2015.
It’s Longford’s first League crown since their 2012 Division 4 success and they were full value for it in Clane, despite a spirited second half fightback from Wicklow.
When Tierney netted in the 38th minute, Longford had their biggest lead of the game, 1-9 to 0-5, but Wicklow cut that deficit back to two points on separate occasions before full-time.
A brilliant Wicklow move culminated in a 43rd minute goal for sub Katie Miley and that sparked a Garden County revival.
Another sub, Laurie Ahern, clipped over a point with nine minutes left and Longford’s lead was cut back to just two.
Farrell and Helena Dowling traded points before Farrell, who had rattled the Wicklow crossbar twice in the first half, did so again.
This time, however, the lethal Colmcille forward was on hand to follow up from close range for a match-clinching goal, four minutes from time.
Scorers for Longford – M Farrell 1-5 (0-2f), S Tierney 1-3, A Reynolds 0-2.
Scorers for Wicklow – K Miley 1-0, C Walsh 0-3f, A Murphy 0-2, J Kinch, L Ahern & H Dowling 0-1 each.
Longford – M Kilkenny; S Hughes, L Keegan, M Moore; E Heaney, L Farrell, M Noonan; J Brady, M Reynolds; A McDonnell, A Reynolds, A O’Hara; A Greene, S Tierney, M Farrell.
Subs – A Darcy for Greene (15), N Darcy for Moore (38), A McCormack for O’Hara (38), A Duffy for McDonnell (44), A McGowan for A Reynolds (57).
Wicklow – G Norton; S.J. Winder, S Hogan, S Byrne; A Gillen, N McGettigan, J Nolan-Byrne; A Gorman, J Kinch; E Mulhall, C Walsh, S.M. Cullen; C Byrne, L Hogan, A Murphy.
Subs – K Miley for L Hogan (29), C Fox for S Byrne (h.t.), L Ahern for Gillen (38), R Byrne for Mulhall (46), H Dowling for Walsh (51).
Referee – N McCormack (Laois)
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